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present tension » The Family of Man

Archive for the 'The Family of Man' Category

Those Mutant Children

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

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Here I am, working again at Chelsea Piers, the only place where you can keep up with top 40 hits while eating sushi, wearing workout gear, monitoring your e-mail and generally producing the words and drawings that your career depends upon. It will be very hard for me when I have to work in an office again.

You forget about the real world here. Half the people are extraordinarily fit and good-looking, and the others are just, well, old. Or black. You forget about the epidemic of hormone- and corn-syrup-induced obesity that rages on in the outside world, beyond the piers and past the moat that surrounds Manhattan. But just yesterday I was sitting here and saw a FAT BOY. A …

Holiday Exposure

Friday, July 4th, 2008

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I’m on an IND platform, West 50s, 6:40 am on July 4th. It being a long holiday weekend, most people have left the city, apart from assorted bohemians and the colored underclass. And everything is moving just a little…slow. I have to get to Penn Station by 7 and am beginning to panic that I won’t make it.

I play little mental games: if the train doesn’t come in two minutes, I’ll run upstairs, get some cash, hail a cab. Then another two minutes, and another two.

An old gypsy female gets off a train going in the opposite direction. She has an entourage of about 15 parcels and shopping bags, each one about big enough to hold a pair …

NYC Declares War on Smoking Mulattoes

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

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No doubt about it, cigarette smoking is a disgusting habit—right up there with sex, nose-picking, and eating at McDonalds. But people persist, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is determined to give some of them a good whack upside the head.

The Department’s main target is the mass of mulattoes and mestizoes from the Caribbean region. Last year they made a celebrity of one Ronaldo Martinez, a Puerto Rican who claims to have lost his voice box to cancer, supposedly brought on by cigarette smoking. His tale is doubtful, short on specifics. He claims to have lost his larynx at 39, but he looks about fifteen years older, while throat and laryngeal cancers seldom occur before …

George Kennan Dead. A Grand Guy.

Friday, March 18th, 2005

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So farewell then, George Kennan. Seems to me I’ve been hearing your obituary in my dreams for about ten days. How delightful to read in the Times that you were a gloomy, complicated and morose person, who despaired of conveying fine nuance in a world of political hackery. Whenever I thought of a foreign-service career for myself, you were always there in my mind as one of the Big Names. Somebody who’d hung around for decades—from the first delegation to the Soviet Hell in the early thirties, to an active career as an elder sage that ended only with his death at 101. I suppose now I shall have to think seriously about that graduate education in global whatsit and …

Harry in Chicago

Sunday, March 6th, 2005

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Harry is one of those people who like to talk on the phone, and like most of that ilk, he likes to say the same thing over and over, which makes it doubly difficult for me because I don’t like to talk on the phone and I have a low boredom threshold.

The Way We Live Today

Saturday, February 26th, 2005

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The NYRR Snowflake 4-mile run, split up into men’s and women’s races, was this morning. I treated it casually. It didn’t bother me when everybody was passing me for the last mile and a half. This included a tall girl in an ungainly straw sombrero decorated with small toothpick models of The Gates. ‘Great hat!’ I heard when she was a few paces behind, and ‘great hat!’ again when she was twenty paces ahead. This sort of attention would turn my stomach. Maybe if you ask for attention you can deal with it. All I know is it distresses me mightily when goofballs stand by the side of the road, give the thumbs-up sign, and bellow, ‘All right! Looking good!’
After …

Moon Beaver, Petite Powerhouse, The Gates

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

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I began this long, four-day weekend yesterday (Sat the 19th) by sending Rosie Evitt an email. Visiting from Herefordshire but we hadn’t connected since a short phone conversation a few weeks ago. Something abstracted about her…as though she’s five years away from diagnosis. I gave Rosie my mobile number but she didn’t ring back, not yesterday anyhow. Today she phoned up on the landline. It looks as though I have dodged a bullet, won’t have to do much entertaining or putting her up at Keith’s.

Just after noon, met Keith and Sylvia at the Boathouse in the Park. Chilly day, made bitter and snappy by bright sun and strong winds. They’d gone to see The Gates, and I insisted I snapping …